Sometimes I choose to write with a big, fat black Sharpie so that I cannot erase my words in a moment of fear and panic. Days, and sometimes weeks later, I’ll return to a draft with new ideas, continue to chip away at a story, and be glad that my moment of dislike did not result in a crinkled piece of paper in the wood stove.
So when I came across this article on the Center for Art Law‘s blog I wanted to respond. One of my majors in college was art history and I remember reading about a business man who wanted to be buried with a famous Renoir painting. He publicized his desire to do so and a media frenzy ensued. In class we debated over whether or not private ownership could lead to the elimination of such a famous work of art and we ended the conversation split over the rights of the owner and the importance of art to human culture and future generations.
Conversely, this article cites stolen works of art presumed to be burned by the mother of one of the suspected thieves. The author states that there is no commandment, “Thou shalt not covet museum art,” and that the penalties for art crimes are far too lenient. I agree with her.
Those who steal art for themselves, for buyers who have hired them, for whomever, are forever robbing future generations from knowing the products of the cultures that came before them. Art history books can only convey so much. The difference between looking at a glossy photo of a Monet in a book and standing in front of one of his canvases is immeasurable.
Punishments for crimes of this nature do not need equal those for such heinous crimes as murder and identity theft, however, coveting such renowned items and removing them from public institutions should be more than a plot for the next summer blockbuster.
This may be a rant by a history major longing for more time in the library, but, I believe that some crimes against humanity go unnoticed and their repercussions will forever tarnish our collective memory.